What do Kate Moss and Che Guevara have in common? As well as David Beckham, Steve McQueen, Sir Malcolm Campbell, mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, “Spooks” star Rupert Penny-Jones, Will Smith and Ewan McGregor?
They are all clothes horses. And brand ambassadors for Belstaff moto chic.
To tie in with Apple TV’s new “Long Way Up “ series in which McGregor and Charley Boorman travel 13,000 miles from Argentina to Los Angles on electric Harley-Davidsons, in a follow-up to their 2004 “Long Way Round” from London to New York and 2007 “Long Way Down” from John O’Groats to Cape Town, the famous British motorcycle wear and moto fashion house, has released it 30-product “Long Way Up” autumn/winter collection featuring the Long Way Up Montana jacket (£725), trousers (£850), Long Way Upfield jacket ( £495) and Long Way Up Blouson ( £450) as well as rain trousers (£120) and the McGregor jacket (£695).
Belstaff, now owned by British chemicals company “Ineos,” has been clothing bikers and biking fashionistas since 1909 when Eli Belovitch opened his rubber goods shop in Middleton Staffs. In the same year, the British Motorcycle Racing Club (Bemsee) was founded at the Brooklands circuit in Surrey. It is now based in Romford, Essex. The First World War increased demand for waterproof fabrics with Belovitch’s new Stoke on Trent factory supplying capes, tents, and groundsheets to the military. In 1924, Belovitch went into partnership with his son-in-law Harry Grosberg, to form Belstaff (with an extra ‘l,’ lost in the 1930s), producing practical waterproof garments for men and women, with the emphasis on motorcycling. Belstaff became the first company in the world to use Egyptian waxed cotton to manufacture ‘breathable’ yet waterproof clothing.
Early celebrity endorsements came from TE Lawrence, “Laurence of Arabia” who rode “Borough Superiors,” aviatrixes Amy Johnston and Amelia Earhart. A bigger factory opened in Longton, where Belstaff produced its Senior Isle of Man TT competition coat in ‘heavyweight black rubber-proofed beaverteen’ (twilled cotton) and deluxe ‘double-texture waterproof cashmere.’ The company also began making waist-cropped jackets for golfers and hikers.
The iconic “Trialmaster” waxed cotton jacket came in 1948, followed by the Black Prince jacket with its signature zip and press-stud fastening and a wrap-over collar to face down the worst of British weather. A Trailmaster jacket now costs £450 with other “built for life “ icons like the black wool Milford coat (£895). Fraser Shearling jacket ( £1525), “Outlaw” (£1295), and Kelland (£295). Women’s jackets include black Nappa Marvingt 2.0 (£895) and “Sidney” (£995). “Hard Rider” boots start at £495.
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and the “Mighty One” – a 1939 single-cylinder Norton Model 18 500cc on an eight-month, 4,971-mile (8,000km) ride in the early 1950s through the jungles, deserts, mountains, and cities of South America with his friend Alberto Granado, an epic journey chronicle in “The Motorcycle Diaries.” He worse a Trialmaster all the way.
Steve McQueen and “The Great Escape” (1963) stuntman Bud Etkins further popularized the brand.
The synthetic “belflex” nylon Belstaff XL500 – one of the first jackets other than black – came next, followed by the cropped, waxed-cotton biker-style “New Rebel jacket” for “the young, style-conscious rider who insists on looking good while still staying dry.” In 1991, Belstaff production moved to Wellingborough, in Northamptonshire, its range extending to slim-cut neutral tees and broken-in motorcycle boots.
Belstaff has two London stores – in Old Spitalfields Market in the East End and New Bond Street. It also has opened a shop in Studio City, Macao, and Ginza Six, Tokyo.